A strong, moisture-laden eastern Pacific Jetstream brought heavy rain to the Pacific Northwest in February, creating landslides throughout Oregon.

Landslides Block Highway 36 Near Eugene

In just two days from February 16 through 17, heavy rains triggered a landslide in the Coast Range, blocking Highway 36 at milepost 25 two miles west of Triangle Lake, which is about 35 miles northwest of Eugene. Crews cleared the obstruction on the 17th and reopened both lanes of highway to traffic. By afternoon a much larger slide entirely blocked both lanes of the highway, closing the road once again.

Hillside Slides Close Portland West Hills Roads

Landslides are a recurring feature in the Portland West Hills. In February 1996, a major storm induced hundreds of landslides in the West Hills. Smaller numbers of landslides occur every few years in the area during extended rainy periods and intense storms.

This year on February 7th, a hillside slide blocked two lanes of westbound traffic along Highway 26 west of the Vista Ridge tunnel. On the same day, a landslide forced crews to close a section of Northwest Cornell Road.

A month earlier, a section of earth, trees and mud tumbled into the canyon below onto Newbury Road, which may remain closed into summer 2017 while crews work to repair the stretch between Highway 30 and Skyline Road.

How to Avoid a Landslide

Slides tend to occur after several hours or days of heavy rain or rapid snow melt. During intense, prolonged rainfall, listen for advisories and warnings over local radio or TV or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. In western Oregon “intense” rainfall is considered 4% of average annual rainfall in a 12-hour period during the wet season. East of the Cascade Range “intense” rainfall is 2 inches in 4 hours.

If you are in an area susceptible to landslides and debris flow, consider leaving the area. Embankments along roadsides weakened by snowmelt or heavy rains are particularly susceptible to landslides. Any area, such as the Portland West Hills, that is composed of very weak or fractured materials resting on a steep slope will likely experience landslides.

Stay alert when driving, especially at night, watching carefully for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rock, and other debris. Be particularly careful in areas marked as slide or rock-fall areas, and watch for signs with warnings or road closures.

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Author: Rizk Law

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